Divorce cases have traditionally involved the husband and the wife each getting their own lawyer, filing a lawsuit for divorce, and then, treating the case much like any other civil case: setting hearings on preliminary matters that should be resolved early in the case; sending and responding to written discovery requests; taking depositions of each other, along with any other witnesses who know things that are important to the case; attempting to negotiate a settlement of the issues of the case; and finally, if no agreement has been reached, setting the case for a contested trial. Most Texas Courts also now require the parties and their lawyers in a divorce case to spend a full day in mediation prior to the trial date. These steps make up the Litigation Process. It is time-consuming and costly.
So, CPS has removed your children from your home: is there any chance that you can get them back? The short answer to that question is “yes.” To start with, CPS is only authorized by law (Chapter 262 of the Texas Family Code) to remove children from their home when facts exist that would “satisfy a person of ordinary prudence and caution to believe that there is an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the child, or the child has been a victim of neglect or sexual abuse, and that continuation in the home would be contrary to the child's welfare.”
According to the most recent statistics available, approximately 3,200,000 children are investigated each year by the various Child Protective Services agencies operating within the United States of America. Of course, not all of those investigations result in findings of abuse or neglect. And, while no one who has been through that experience would call it “enjoyable,” we, unfortunately, have no system of investigating child abuse or neglect which is perfect at avoiding putting innocent parents through such investigations.
The purpose of this writing is to lay-out some ideas on what you can do if you find yourself being investigated by CPS.
The first thing to do is to remain calm. This lets you converse intelligently with the CPS case investigator with whom you are dealing.
Texas law (the Texas Family Code) provides that CPS shall investigate reports that a child has been abused or neglected. Those reports are typically made through either a phone call, or online ( ph. 1-800-252-5400 or www.txabusehotline.org).
The law goes on to state that the investigation shall be “prompt and thorough,” and may require the assistance of local law enforcement. And when that investigation reveals an “immediate danger” to the welfare of the child, then CPS may remove the child from his or her home, either with or without first obtaining a court order, depending on whether “there is …time” “consistent with the health and safety of (the) child” to first obtain a court order (such as a temporary restraining order).
Either the husband or the wife may file for divorce in Texas. Sometimes, when it appears that divorce might be coming, we are asked whether it matters who files first. The short answer is: it does. While the burdens of proof and presenting evidence do not change based on who files first, other, important, tactical factors will vary.